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Leading with learning: putting L&D at the heart of your business strategy

L&D is having its moment. With the attention of the C-suite, L&D professionals can seize this opportunity to build stronger businesses. 

1st Jul 2020
Director at LinkedIn Learning LinkedIn
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Learning and development professionals have worked tirelessly over the past few months to get their people set up for success as they work from home due to Covid-19, or enabling their furloughed employees to continue investing in their professional development during this testing time. As the economy starts to rebound, they’re now going to be faced with a whole new set of challenges.

Two-thirds of UK L&D professionals (66%) report that learning is becoming a more strategic part of their organisation.

Reskilling and upskilling will be top priorities for leaders as business models evolve and entire industries are reshaped in response to the global pandemic. Ensuring employees are equipped with the critical skills needed (particularly digital skills as Covid-19 accelerates digitisation and automation) is going to require a coordinated organisational response to ensure companies can continue operating smoothly and delivering on new customer needs. L&D professionals will be the driving force of this reskilling revolution.

Cementing L&D’s strategic position

The good news is that buy-in from senior leadership has already been earned. According to a new study from LinkedIn Learning, which surveyed 850+ L&D professionals around the world, more than three-quarters (76%) in the UK say that their CEOs are now actively championing the development of their workforce in light of the pandemic. This is up from just 28% in a comparable study conducted late last year.

Two-thirds of UK L&D professionals (66%) also report that learning is becoming a more strategic part of their organisation, and nearly three quarters (72%) say they are now focused on rebuilding and reshaping their company.

So how can L&D professionals capture this momentum to improve workforce resilience and build back stronger businesses for a post-pandemic world?

1. Reskilling is crucial for organisational agility

Now is the time for companies to be forward thinking, to anticipate roles needed tomorrow to deliver on future customer needs, and identify where the skills gaps are in order to fill them.  

One of the biggest barriers that often prevents companies from doing this effectively, however, is that they lack real-time insight and a holistic view of the existing skills within their organisation today.

Learning leaders are focused on developing the skills within their organisations that will enable the next phase of business growth. Our study found that 44% of L&D professionals in the UK will be prioritising employee reskilling and upskilling programmes in the next three months and 59% say they will be focusing on filling critical skills gaps. Doing so will ensure businesses remain nimble and are prepared for what’s ahead.

flexible learning hub link

2. Developing a culture of continuous learning

It’s no secret that learning is directly linked to increased productivity. Since the pandemic, 59% of UK L&D professionals say they have started to develop a stronger learning culture within their businesses. Companies are nurturing this culture by offering ‘social learning’ experiences, where employees learn together in virtual environments. This is particularly effective as many employees are seeking out a sense of community after being physically apart for so long. More social learning helps make the experience more interesting and drives up learner engagement.

We’re also seeing individuals value learning more now than they did before. In the UK, people consumed 547,432 hours of LinkedIn Learning content in March to May, a 110% increase compared to December to February. Some of the most popular courses included how to keep productive and motivated while working from home, as well as learning how to improve wellness and reduce stress levels.

3. C-suite leaders more engaged with online learning

It’s also been positive to see leaders turning to learning to help get them through the pandemic. LinkedIn Learning noted a 60% increase in C-level executives taking learning courses in March and April, compared to January and February. Additional insights from LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index also explored motivations for online learning and found that 20% of leaders say they were learning to become ‘better leaders’, with 40% saying they are learning to ‘succeed at their current job’.

This newfound attention from executives will serve L&D well as we collectively move past this crisis and adjust to the new normal. The appreciation for the value of learning from leaders and employees alike will help cement its position as a strategic business priority.

A new era for L&D

We’re no longer seeing mere theorising and planning of increased L&D activity within organisations – we’re now witnessing both real implementation and uptake. Putting learning and development at the heart of business strategy will allow leaders to focus on reskilling and upskilling their people, enabling them to build employees’ capabilities and skill sets, while also benefiting from increased productivity at a time when it’s needed most, and ensuring they’re prepared as business needs evolve.

By creating blended online learning experiences that are impactful, delivering highly relevant, applicable learning content, and staying close to the go-forward business strategy, L&D professionals are in a unique position to influence organisational culture and make an even bigger impact on their organisations.

Many of us have long recognised the strategic importance of L&D. The appetite and appreciation among senior leadership for learning has never been stronger, and the workforce and economic landscape demands it. Let’s grab the opportunity of L&D to deliver for our people, businesses and the economy. The companies that will rise from this time will be the ones that adapt and become more resilient during this change.

Interested in this topic? Read How to adapt your talent and learning strategy in uncertain times.

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